Archetypes of Change
The Evolving Comic Book and Its Heroes
Drawing on Northrop Frye's theories of myth and genre, this exhibit uses Magill Library's student-curated comics collection to trace the evolution of the comic-book hero from early, larger-than-life superheroes like Captain America and Wonder Woman to the more human protagonists of recent comics as individuals whose vulnerability and diversity inform their values and reflect a more inclusive and morally complex society.
Archetpyes of Change: The Evolving Comic Book and Its Heroes
Using Haverford College's student-run comic-book collection, this exhibit traces depictions of the heroic in comics throughout the 1980s--the source of the largest part of the collection--delineating their debts to earlier comic-book heroes, but primarily focusing on the birth of new aesthetic/narrative forms and the ways in which these forms reflected, criticized and affected the socio-political realities of their time. To illustrate the diverse transformations of the comic-book hero during this period, the exhibit draws on literary critic Northrop Frye's "Theory of Myths" in The Anatomy of Criticism, which suggests that societies move cyclically through different narrative modes in accord with historical developments within those societies. He describes four archetypal forms of narrative--romance, tragedy, irony/satire, comedy--and identifies each with one of the four seasons, a metaphor that expresses the character of the different narrative modes and the way that they transition from one into another. This exhibit employs Frye's four mythoi/seasons in order to understand the evolving heroic archetypes as they appeared in comic books throughout the 1980s and beyond. Though it moves somewhat chronologically, the exhibit does not suggest a singular or definitive progression in the medium's history, but rather uses Frye's work as a creative mode of curation, which--like the comic books themselves--favors visual metaphor and a sequential logic.